David Leveridge- Sports View America – UK Basketball Contributor – November 9, 2018- Rupp Arena
The Kentucky Wildcats returned to action tonight hosting Southern Illinois Salukis in the home opener of the 2018-2019 season. Kentucky opened the season on Tuesday with a disappointing performance against the Duke Blue Devils. Duke out played UK on every major offensive category and had three players score 83 points, as the entire team only scored 84 points combined. The thirty- four- point loss is the largest defeat coach Calipari has experienced in his illustrious coaching career. Entering tonight’s game against SIU UK was expected to dominate the Salukis cruising to an easy 25- 30-point victory.
Coach Calipari continues to experiment with different lineups as tonight’s lineup had a couple of different peace’s starting than did against Duke in the Champions Classic. Tonight’s game against SIU had Keldon Johnson and Immanuel Quickly inserted into the starting lineup. Starting for the CATS tonight was PJ Washington, Reid Travis, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and Immanuel Quickly. I look for the lineup to change again on the next game as Calipari will continue shuffling the lineup, seeing what players give the team the best chance to win. It appears Washington, Johnson and Tyler Herro have solidified roles as starters, as each has started the last 2 regular season games and at least one of the preseason exhibitions.
Kentucky struggles to score the ball early in the first half and trails the Salukis 10-5 at the first media timeout. Turnovers are beginning to become a problem for Kentucky who are forcing the ball into traffic and have yet to find a constant point guard. Kentucky trails for most of the game and the arena is exceptionally quiet, some fans even booed as UK continues to get out played. Kentucky doesn’t take the lead until Quade Green connects with a step back three- point basket with 5:15 remaining in the first half, Giving the CATS a 22-19 lead. Kentucky starts to play better in the last segment of the first half taking a three-point lead to the locker room. Kentucky 31- SIU 28 at the end of the first half. As a team Kentucky is atrocious with the ball committing fourteen first half turnovers. The one bright spot for the CATS is Sophomore Nick Richards who finished the half with six points and twelve total rebounds.
SIU comes out to start the second half playing phenomenal. Kentucky’s first half missteps continue to plague the CATS in the second half. Turnovers and sloppy play continue to dictate the play on the court. SIU leads UK 40- 37 at the first media timeout in the second half. Kentucky has committed 17 turnovers and many media and fans are frustrated with how the team is playing. The SIU lead grows to seven points 44-37 with 14:19 remaining in the game. The following possessions are some of the best on the night for the CATS. The CATS finally start to play as a team, stopping the turnovers and sloppy play. UK connects with back to back three-point baskets and the SIU lead is cut to one point. Rupp Arena was quite up until this point, is now loud and excited with joy. EJ Montgomery is inserted into the lineup and contributes right away with rebounding and scoring the ball. The CATS take a one-point lead 47- 46 with 12: `18 remaining in the game. The CATS don’t look back and pull away from the Salukis late in the game with a twelve-point victory. Kentucky 71- SIU 58.
Next up for the CATS is North Dakota Fighting Hawks on Wednesday November 14, 2018. Kentucky continues playing at Rupp for the next eight games, the largest home game stretch of the season. The CATS need to improve as a team, as the season continues. The sloppy play, and turnovers need to be addressed as the CATS play against better competition. Right Now, Kentucky isn’t a very good team and the expectations of the school’s ninth championship seems unfathomable. Kentucky will get better as the team is young and experiencing growing pains, and many of the athletes are playing in their first collegiate games of their careers. The game between UK and North Dakota can be seen at 9:00 pm on the SEC network.